The next time you give your favorite four legged friend a kiss, take time to smell the roses. But, if your cat's breath smells more fowl than floral, something needs to be done. But what? How can you take care of the problem, and more importantly, what can you do to prevent the progression of gum disease in your cat?
Cats' teeth and gums are similar to our own. Food material, bacteria, and saliva accumulate and adhere to the tooth surface, forming plaque. We brush our teeth daily to remove the plaque because if daily accumulation is not removed, harmful bacteria can build under the gumline destroying the bone that surrounds our teeth.
There are four classifications of periodontal disease. Grades one and two are referred to as gingivitis. Here, the gums are red and swollen. You may also notice a disagreeable odor from your cat's mouth. Gingivitis is curable if treated early, with thorough teeth cleaning and polishing by a veterinarian. If not treated, periodontal disease occurs. In grade three periodontal disease, part of the tooth's supporting bone will be lost. Just as with people, during this stage, deep cleaning and periodontal surgery may be needed to save the tooth. Once grade four periodontal disease occurs, the tooth loosens due to complete destruction of the supporting bone.
In most cases, treatment of grade four disease involves extraction of teeth, to decrease the pain of eating with wobbly teeth. Dental pain is as real in pets as in humans, even though they may not tell you so.
What should be the first step if your cat's breath doesn't smell like roses? Have a veterinarian examine the mouth and make recommendations. Treatment often requires anesthesia, which may concern you. With current preoperative blood testing, improved anesthetics, and patient monitoring, we take every step to make anesthesia a safe experience. We may also take dental x-rays to fully evaluate the teeth, roots, and supporting bone. Then, either the affected teeth will be cleaned, extracted, or surgery will be performed to save the teeth.
Once the immediate problem has been cared for, it's time to prevent further disease progression. Daily brushing, the use of fluoride, and special diets for dental health, as well as monthly vitamins and/or antibiotics are helpful. Prevention of periodontal disease will do more to lengthen your cat's life and make it an enjoyable one then most anything else -- so take a good whiff and get moving -- your cat will love you for it!!!